Four Skelton horses to follow this winter

Visitors to Stratford are well used to seeing Dan Skelton’s horses come to the venue and plunder the spoils. The trainer has a fine record here, and he has continued that fine tradition with wins across the summer and early autumn, including last Monday with Too Friendly, ridden by brother Harry.

While Skelton has tasted plenty of success across the UK, there are some standout names in his stable. And with the jumps season upon us, we pick out four that are well worth following in the from the autumn right through to Cheltenham and beyond in the spring:

My Drogo

The horse that is arguably causing the most stir in Skelton’s stable, My Drogo has been called the “most exciting Skelton prospect” by Racing TV. My Drogo went four from four over hurdles last season, including a huge win in the Grade 1 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree. That’s got tongues wagging over his potential when switching to fences this season. But Skelton is certainly taking a wait and see approach. The Racing Post called the plans for My Drogo “fluid”, and the trainer himself called for caution before fans get too ahead of themselves. He did mention the Marsh Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham as a possibility, however. And Skelton seems to agree with the assessment that the attributes are there for My Drogo to be a Gold Cup chance one day.

Shan Blue

It never really happened for Shan Blue last spring. Hopes were high after an assertive win in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, but coming up against Chantry House in the Marsh Novices’ Chase (Cheltenham) and Mildmay Novices’ Chase (Aintree) – Shan Blue was thumped by 32 lengths in the latter – was too tall an order. Pundits expect the 7yo to have a tilt at the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby later this month. Perform well there, and you can guarantee there will be a lot of buzz about Shan Blue’s chances in the King George VI Chase, a stated target according to Skelton. 888 Sport’s ante-post horse racing odds have Shan Blue down as a 33/1 shot for the King George – expect that price to tumble should Shan Blue look well in the Charlie Hall.  

Allmankind

Since moving to Skelton’s yard, Allmankind has seven wins from ten. But all three of his losses came at Cheltenham. There shouldn’t be too much read into that, however. Allmankind’s class is there for all to see, and lest we forget, the horse is still a 5yo. Moreover, there is a Cheltenham victory – back in November 2019 on his resumé. This season, you should expect to see him in action in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree in November. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. He’s doing the rounds on the ante-post markets for Cheltenham at 33/1 for the Champion Chase. But Skelton – never afraid to swerve the Festival if he feels it doesn’t fit – might have other plans.

Allmankind wins well at Sandown last December

Protektorat

Part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson, Protektorat hinted at his class when delivering a (relatively) surprising victory in the Grade 1 Super Alloys Manifesto Novices’ Chase at Aintree in April. Skelton describes the horse as “a thinker”, and the trainer has grand plans for him. Expect a run at Carlisle in mid-October, and that will likely be followed by a trip to Cheltenham in November for the Grade 3 Paddy Power Gold Cup in November. As with Allmankind, there is no clear pathway to what happens next, but a good performance in the autumn will open many doors for Protektorat, and that’s one of the reasons he’s a horse worth watching this season.   

Exciting autumn brings additional momentum to the sport

As the flat season comes to an end after this weekend’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, attention has already started to switch over to the winter jumps season. And for all that we love staging fixtures in the bright sunshine and warmth of high summer, even at Stratford, we recognize that the core Jumps season begins at the start of October, with the season opener at Chepstow racecourse on Friday, October 8, just four days after our first of three fixtures that month.


Stratford’s campaign straddles three seasons, but a week after Chepstow, our own autumn effort will come on Saturday, October 16, hopefully attracting some big name trainers and jockeys to accelerate the autumn season in style. It’s a fixture where summer successes meet autumn debutantes to see whether racecourse experience can trump higher quality breeding.


When autumn gets underway, there will be a lot of action on for jump racing fans to keep up with, and seasoned veterans of the sport will know what they are looking out for. However, if you are new to jump racing, you may want to try and pick up as much horse racing knowledge as possible ahead of the new season. This could include combining some other gambling-oriented hobbies with horse racing. If you like to play casino games, then there are many horse racing themed casino games available. These include Scudamore’s Super Stakes, a game available on many sites and with £5 deposit casinos, you can deposit a small amount.


With the additional knowledge you gain, you should be able to really enjoy the upcoming season.



What are the big events this autumn and winter?

Away from Stratford racecourse, there are a number of big events that you cannot miss this season – the highlights of jump racing where the biggest names from the sport all come together. The biggest week of them all is without a doubt the Cheltenham Festival, which is set to run on March 15-18, 2022. These four days see a tussle between the best from Great Britain and the best from Ireland, with 28 races and many huge prizes to be won. And British trainers will be keen to exorcize the ghost of 2021, when they received a fearful drubbing.

Ahead of the festival, as is traditionally the case, Stratford will race on March 14, the ideal place to be if you want to get yourself ready for the Cheltenham Festival. As an appetizer to the main dish, it’s also a fixture where jockeys are trying to remain in one piece, whilst spectators chew over the prospects for the morrow’s Supreme Novices Hurdle.

A month later, if we are talking about individual races then there is no bigger than the Randox Grand National at Aintree, which next year will be run on Saturday, April 9. This is a race that is watched by millions, including many who don’t usually watch horse racing, or keep up with the sport in any way.

The National is one of the biggest sporting traditions that we have in the UK, and will no doubt once again attract plenty of attention. History was made in 2021, when Rachel Blackmore (pictured beneath) became the first female jockey to win the race and given her rise to stardom in the sport, you would be foolish to write her off winning another. It’s great news to see her back after her recent injury. We’re unlikely to see her here in the UK until March though.

These are the two biggest events to look out for, but there are many more as the season progresses. Look out for the November meeting at Cheltenham, the biggest early-season meeting of the autumn. Christmas is another busy time, with the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, followed by the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow a day later. In reality, every weekend brings another great race to savour up and down the land.

Don’t ignore the grass roots of the sport

The counties of Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and up and down the Severn Valley are a heartland for the sport, housing horses galore for every level of racing.

And whilst the recent National Racehorse Week has focused on the professional ranks of the sport at the country’s 60 racecourses, the strength of that support is fed by a hugely enthusiastic and practised amateur division at Point-to-Point level. Adapting to current trends, the Pointing season, which concludes at Stratford each May with the country’s most valuable set of hunter chases, this season will begin in late October. Venues like Chaddesley Corbett, Mollington and Barbury Castle allow budding horsemen and trainers to learn the craft or race -riding and training without the bright lights of television coverage. Any newcomer should experience this branch of the sport to see the champions of tomorrow. For local fixtures, follow Pointing West Mercian.


With all of this to look forward to, the new autumn jumps season looks set to be another exciting one. But don’t overlook us just yet… We’ve meetings of our own on October 4th, 16th as previously mentioned and 28th for our autumn swansong.

Should Dan Skelton Do the Unthinkable and Avoid the 2022 Cheltenham Festival?

For National Hunt trainers, the Cheltenham Festival is the pinnacle of the sport, and missing it is almost unheard of. People like Warwickshire’s own Dan Skelton need to prove to punters and pundits that they can produce exceptional winners that deserve to grace the event. It’s part of their sporting legacies.  

Even winners at Stratford as early as September are bookmarked for the Supreme Novices’ “if all goes well over the winter”. The year runs the risk of becoming top-heavy around just 28 races, less than 1% of the total run in the UK alone.

Things haven’t been going to plan for the Skeltons at Cheltenham in recent years, with Dan being among most of Britain’s top trainers in failing to secure a winner in 2020. Although it’s unthinkable, is it worth the yard focusing on success away from the iconic venue in 2022?  

The Grand National is wide-open  

There’s no doubt that the Grand National is as prestigious as any Cheltenham race, especially for British trainers and jockeys. Of course, the competitive nature of the event makes it incredibly challenging to win. Skelton’s outfit hasn’t done it yet, but it has an excellent opportunity in 2022 because the field may be weaker.  

Currently, the horse racing betting quotes Any Second Now and Minella Times as 16/1 joint-favourites. The latter won the race by six-and-a-half-lengths in 2021 from the former, so it’s easy to see why they are strong contenders. However, Skelton’s only entrant was Blaklion and he ended the race sixth. He might have been 36 lengths behind the winner, but the 12-year-old has the experience to burn and didn’t run very often before his Grand National appearance last time around.  

With a better warm-up during the 2021/22 season, the former National champion could feasibly close the gap, particularly if his training is dedicated to bouncing back at the Grand National. After all, Blaklion is an Aintree specialist and that counts for a lot at the Merseyside venue.  

What’s more, the National is no longer a one race wonder. Many of the other races are viable alternatives to Cheltenham, or for the lucky few, an additional opportunity for lucrative prizes. Cheltenham needn’t be the be-all and end-all any more.

An Uphill Battle  

Although it’s hard for British horse racing fans to hear, it’s essential to understand why UK mounts can’t match their Irish counterparts at Cheltenham presently. Last year, only five British horses managed to win, compared to 23 from across Ireland. Dan Skelton himself said afterwards that the Irish are better and the British racing system needs an overhaul.  

Until that happens, it’s perhaps unhealthy for UK yards to target events they can’t win. For example, Third Time Lucki for Dan Skelton Racing is the fourth favourite for the 2022 County Hurdle at 8-1 behind You Raised Me Up, Champagne Gold, and Ganapathi. While Skelton has had success in this race previously, the official ratings of his rivals make for unpleasant reading.  

Plus, Third Time Lucki failed to make an impression in the last edition of the race when he was beaten into sixth place by Belfast Banter.  

Fans overlooking rivalry  

What might swing it for the UK-based trainers at the moment is that the fans don’t seem to care about the battle between the British and Irish. Over one million viewers tuned in to watch the action on average in 2021, with a 1.5 million peak for Rachael Blackmore’s success in the Champion Hurdle.  

It’s one thing trying to do the impossible when the supporters are desperate for something to cheer on, yet it’s another when racing fans only seem to want to see the best compete against one another. For Skelton and co, there’s not much point going toe-to-toe with the Irish when they had 82% of the winners with only 40% of the runners in 2021.  

Instead, it’s smarter to regroup and pour over the long-term strategy. That way, he and his peers can bounce back and begin to challenge for Cheltenham honours in their backyard, rather than allowing the Irish to dominate.  

That’s what the Irish trainers and jockeys did a decade or so ago when they were the underdogs. Now it’s the BHA’s turn to meticulously plan the future of the UK National Hunt racing scene. 

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